Photos by Sarah Bennett

When Los Angeles-based supermarket chain Gelson’s found a location in Long Beach for its first new store in more than a decade, the company knew it wanted to do something different.

So in addition to the mini food court, coffee bar and expansive selection of gourmet food products present in many renovated Gelson’s, the plans to convert the former Albertson’s on the corner of 2nd St. and Pacific Coast Highway also included its first wine and tapas bar, a conceptual upstairs al fresco patio and an outdoor dog water fountain.

“The Long Beach community seemed very well-suited to trying some of these concepts that are new for us,” said Yvonne Manganaro, Director of Marketing for Gelson’s. “It’s a city within a city within a city. It’s big, but yet its small. This is the first store where we said, ‘Oh my gosh, we have to have a wine bar. This would be a great store for this.'”

But what Gelson’s didn’t expect was how quickly the community would come to accept these additions as not just amenities at a new upscale grocery store, but as new neighborhood institutions. Since opening on November 7, the company says both the wine bar and the balcony have been heavily utilized beyond their wildest hopes.


“The first thing we hadn’t anticipated is that the wine bar would be busy from the moment it is open until the moment it closes,” Manganaro said. “The other thing interesting about the store and wine bar is that everybody knows one another. It’s already becoming a meeting place for the community.” 

Most afternoons, all 12 seats at the Gateway Wine Bar–located just inside the new store’s front entrance, next to the hot food and deli section–are filled as locals sip on eight on-tap wines and four craft beers while noshing on small plates and tapas prepared next door. And in the open-air balcony seating area upstairs, customers casually eat just-purchased sandwiches and dinner plates with fire pits and a view of the Marina across the street.

The idea that the grocery store can be somewhere to relax before or after a shopping trip isn’t unique to Gelson’s, however. It’s indicative of a change in supermarket design that can be seen industry-wide, including at Whole Foods across the street.

“I think there’s been an evolution,” said Manganaro. “For many years, Gelson’s was a leader in staying on premesis. We have long had fireplaces in the store because we want people to see Gelson’s as a place to be stress-free. We’re making Gelson’s a place where you actually want to stay and eat.”

Gelson’s Long Beach is located at 6255 E. 2nd Street, (562) 430-6042. Find more Gelson’s at

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